Delaware River Basin Commission Must Say No to Water Withdrawal for Gas Drilling

Another threat out of the Delaware River Basin. XTO Energy (a wholly-owned subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp.) is asking for permission to take a quarter of a million gallons of water per day from Oquaga Creek, a trout stream that flows to the West Branch of the Delaware River in New York’s Broome and Delaware Counties, to develop gas wells they plan to drill there.  The withdrawal site is on land owned by the Town of Sanford, which has already given them access.  New York State requires no permit for the withdrawal of water for industrial activities like gas drilling (though important legislation seeking to remove that significant regulatory gap is moving through the New York Legislature), So the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) will provide the only review of the proposed withdrawal.

The DRBC plans to vote on XTO Energy’s water withdrawal application for natural gas development at a public hearing during their regularly scheduled meeting next Wednesday, May 11, 2011 in West Trenton, NJ. 

Approval of this application would be wrong for many reasons: 

  • The Oquaga Creek and the Delaware River stand to lose more than a million gallons of water each week.  And as a trout stream, Oquaga Creek is entitled to special protections to “sustain waters that support these valuable and sensitive fisheries resources under NYSDEC Protection of Waters regulations.”  The DRBC needs to analyze how this withdrawal could affect the trout, benthic life, and water quality of this richly diverse creek and of the downstream West Branch and main stem Delaware that need the cold fresh flows of the Oquaga to support stream life and water supplies downstream.
  • There is currently a moratorium on drilling in the Delaware River Watershed and on horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in New York. The DRBC should not approve this water withdrawal while its own gas drilling moratorium is in effect, while its draft gas rules are pending and while New York has a hold on its generic permit for hydraulically fractured-horizontally drilled gas wells while it completes its environmental review.  The Commission can’t justify pushing this approval ahead when the rules could very well change how this application should be treated.  Furthermore, XTO has no permits for gas wells and has not justified its need for any water, much less 250,000 gallons of water every day from this cold water stream. What’s the rush?
  • The public is being denied meaningful participation in the process.  The comment period is only 10 working days, instead of the usual 60 or more.  Also, DRBC is excluding from the public comment process the communities who would be most immediately affected by this withdrawal.  There is no hearing scheduled in the Oquaga Creek area in Broome or Delaware Counties where the water would be withdrawn and the wells would be drilled, and the sole hearing is located an unreasonable 4-hour drive from the affected region.

If you are local, please attend the DRBC hearing and speak out to demand that the DRBC not issue a water withdrawal permit to XTO, and that it grant a fair hearing and comment process for all those affected:

DRBC Hearing on Water Withdrawal for Fracking

May 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm

West Trenton Volunteer Fire Company

40 W. Upper Ferry Rd., West Trenton, N.J.

To sign up in advance to speak at the hearing, contact or 609-883-9500 ext. 224 and say you’d like to speak at the Hearing for the XTO proposed Docket.

Public comment can also be submitted now by email or hard mail and verbal comment can be made at the public hearing.  Time is running out, so please act now!

The mailing address is for written comments is:

Carol Collier, Executive Director

Commission Members

Delaware River Basin Commission

P.O. BOX 7360

West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360